Interview with Sheila Horgan, mystery author pioneering the hybrid novel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether you call her books cozy mysteries, comic mysteries, or women sleuth adventures, Sheila Horgan loves writing series. Her popular “Tea Series” has seen tens of thousands of sales and hundreds of unique reviews and has prompted her to create a spin-off series featuring familiar characters on their own adventures, dubbed the “Girls Series.” Today, Sheila gives Noir Nation a glance into the hybrid format she is pioneering.

Noir Nation: Your successful “Tea Series” is described as a hybrid of the traditional novel and the serial novel. Please talk about this type of unique format. What made you choose to release your series in this type of format?

Horgan: I came to writing quite by accident. My kids grew up and chose to have lives of their own. One day I decided to take the advice of every stranger I’d encountered for several years and write a book (it dawned on me much later they might have simply been asking for silence while waiting in line for the grocery clerk). Not knowing all the tried and true things you’re supposed to do when writing a novel – things like arcs and protagonists and pace – I simply told a story. I got an email from a woman that said that reading my book made her laugh her way through chemo. She wanted to know when the next book would be out. I started writing the second book within moments of getting the email. I’m now writing books 11, 12, and 13.

Noir Nation: Do you think ebooks have made serial novels more popular?

Horgan: I think because you can turn a book around much more quickly, a serial novel makes more sense now than it has in the past. If you can supply your reader with a book a couple of times a year, a serial novel makes sense.

Noir Nation: Your new “Girls Series” features characters first introduced in your “Tea Series” books. Did you always know you wanted to give these characters their own book or did you decide to feature them because of the fans?

Horgan: Actually, they were just characters that I thought were interesting. I believe women “of a certain age” have a lot to say and not a lot of places to say it. There was a time when crones were a welcome part of the community. Not so much any more. The girls get to say things that younger women might not be able to say with impunity. Today people are so mobile and families are scattered. Having an older woman to share some insights with might be helpful.

Noir Nation: Your books feature mystery, humor, and women sleuths. Which element comes most natural for you as a writer?

Horgan: Humor. I am a strong believer in the power of humor. It can heal, teach, and diffuse. It can endear, inspire, and motivate. Mostly it can take you out of your problems and help you step back for just a moment to see that life is to be enjoyed. My books are not going to cure cancer. But they’ve been proven to help at least one cancer patient.

Noir Nation: Why did you set the first book of the “Girls Series” in Las Vegas?

Horgan: “The Tea Series” is set in Tampa Bay, Florida. I lived there at the time. Then I moved to the Las Vegas area. Yeah, I’m tricky like that.

Noir Nation: What’s the strangest thing you’ve witnessed firsthand in Vegas?

Horgan: I saw a woman walking down the street with her little girl. The woman was probably in her early thirties. The little girl was probably about five. They were dressed exactly alike. If you were in Disneyland, that might bring to mind matching mouse ears and sweatshirts. In Vegas, it meant lots of Bedazzled Lycra, heels that were much too high for a mere mortal – and certainly for a little girl – low cut belly shirts, and hot pink boas. They were also wearing matching makeup complete with lashes. The strangest part was that no one paid much attention to them.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

Horgan: I can’t begin to imagine. Vegas is going through major construction and a complete redesign right now. From a huge London Eyestyle ride, to tearing down the facades of major casinos and doing complete revamps, to a huge casino and resort that is supposed to include a replica of the Great Wall of China, Vegas is a chameleon and able to shift with the trends and demands of those who wish to come and enjoy what it has to offer.

Noir Nation: What are you working next?

Horgan: Right now I have Happy Tea, the tenth book in “The Tea Series” almost complete. Hawaii Can Wait, the second book in “The Girls Series,” is almost complete. I am doing a minor rewrite on Consequences, the first book in Lessons, The Series and will republish it soon.

My most exciting project right now is that my oldest son and I are writing a psychological thriller together. He came to me one day with the idea for a book. He also suggested a very unique way that we could write together and exploit the fact that we think very differently. He has written for magazines but is not interested in writing a novel, yet he has extraordinary ideas for novels, so we decided to try it out. I am hopeful that we can turn this into a grand enterprise. I enjoy working with him.

About Horgan: Blessed to be born into a strong Irish American family, Sheila describes herself as “one of ten.” Sheila raised her son, as well as a plethora of other children she calls her own, and now enjoys the title of Grandma.

When asked about her writing, Sheila states, “I devoted the first phase of my life to my parents and family, the second to my children, this last phase is for me. I love to write, share my somewhat skewed vision of the world, and with luck, make people laugh now and then.”

Visit Sheila Horgan’s Amazon Author Page and her Blog.

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